The short answer? It depends. A felony can place a serious dent in your background. But don’t lose hope. Not all crimes make a person ineligible for obtaining a real estate license. And that’s what we’ll share with you today.
Getting a Real Estate License With a Felony Conviction Depends on the State
Some states have stricter requirements, while other states are more lenient. This can affect your licensure application and the process of becoming a real estate agent.
When applying for a real estate license, the Real Estate Commission always conducts a background check if any misdemeanor offense was committed. Being honest and upfront with one’s crimes does not automatically disclose a person from obtaining a real estate license.
Even with a felony conviction, disclosing any serious offense you may have committed does not hold the same in all states.
Eligibility of a Career in Real Estate Per State
In the state of Alabama or Arizona, having a felony conviction involving moral turpitude disqualifies a person from becoming a real estate agent.
In a nutshell, moral turpitude refers to an action a person does recklessly or with evil intent. Having this on your record can even prevent you from obtaining a visa or green card.
Examples of these include repeated DUI, theft, domestic violence, etc.
In the state of Florida, it’s much more lenient. Florida has fewer safeguards than Arizona or Alabama, and unless you’ve committed a first-degree crime, it’s easier to become a real estate agent in Florida.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have a 100% probability of getting approved. If you committed a felony and it’s been more than 15 years since, chances are, your application will be approved.
However, if it was recent, the chances may be slim.
In the state of Michigan, the nature of the crime or felony matters.
This means if you committed a felony closely related to real estate duties such as theft, your chances of obtaining a real estate license are slim.
In the state of Utah, the chances are likely, but you’ll have to wait a certain number of years before applying.
As for Ohio, convicted felons are accepted as long as felons submit a waiver of conviction application and obtain a letter of recommendation from their employer.
New York has one of the most rigid state laws, making it difficult for individuals with a felony conviction to apply for real estate licenses.
As it stands, you can’t become a real estate agent in New York if you have a felony on your record unless you restore ex-felon rights.
Restoring ex-felon rights can be done through either of the three:
- Certificate of Good Conduct
- Certificate of Relief from Disabilities
- Executive Pardon from the Governor
Finally, you cannot obtain a license if the person is under probation, paroled, incarcerated, or under community supervision.
The First Step to Your Real Estate Career With a Felony
Now that you’re aware of the conditions for most states as mentioned above, the first step to becoming a real estate agent when convicted of a felony is to be honest about the offenses you committed in the past.
Even though the felony exists in your record and can easily be sourced, owning up to it during the interview process can increase the chances of obtaining your licensure.
Something to keep in mind: every state uses fingerprint identification to thoroughly check your background.
If you have a felony conviction and lie about it during the interview process, this can significantly lower your chances to become a real estate salesperson.
Here are some key pointers to help you:
- Provide full disclosure of your crimes and state the specific criminal conviction
- Talk about your rehabilitation journey and process
- Explain to your state why you want to become a real estate agent
- Be honest about how long it has been since you served the punishment of your crime
This determines if you have a good character to make you eligible to proceed and pursue a real estate career. Being a felon may be a serious offense, but it’s still possible to start fresh and embark on a better path.
If the state recognizes your honesty and deems you trustworthy, this is one footstep closer to beginning your career with a high-income potential.
Plead Your Case
If your state deems you trustworthy and favors your case, you’ll go through a felony review. If successful, you can become a real estate agent even if you were convicted of a felony. During the review, the state department may also review your job history. This doesn’t just apply to people convicted of a felony, but also to all applicants.
If your previous job position showcases years of reliability, good conduct, and trustworthiness, this can greatly help you during the review.
We also mentioned earlier how pursuing a career in real estate is easier in some states. It’s also worth mentioning a list of states deemed as the most difficult:
- North Carolina
Given the difficulty of these states, is it impossible then to get a real estate license? Not necessarily. Applying for a real estate agent with a felony record has a 50% success rate.
Although, some states will have a waiting period between 2 to 5 years. Either way, one should always remember applying to become a real estate agent requires truthfulness above all.
How Does the Commission Decide?
There is no universal answer to this question. Ask any person or applicant in the room, and they’ll tell you the same thing.
Even if you scored high on your real estate exam and did well during your pre-licensing courses, obtaining a license isn’t as simple as scoring an ace. Character is a vital factor for every applicant and it’s one element that can be the catalyst to your success.
It’s hard to tell how exactly the commission decides, not until the interview process. The best approach is to ask a lawyer who has represented any applicant in the past. They might be able to give you advice and guidance.
Crimes That Significantly Reduce Your Chances in the Real Estate Industry
Certain crimes carry a graver offense than others. It’s worth noting a few of these when applying for your license, such as:
- Tax evasion
Any person who commits these crimes is a grave offense that makes it less likely to obtain their license.
Applying to become a real estate agent as an ex-felon is difficult, but it’s also not impossible. Being an ex-felon has its struggles, but with genuine change and sincere steps taken to improve, you can pursue the career you’ve always wanted.
Once you’ve been approved to be a real estate agent, make sure to find a broker to guide you on your journey. It might also help to ask people or someone who’s knowledgeable about state regulations in your area.